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Strata Playing The Ritz For First Time

In Music
Reunited And It Feels So Good: Strata frontman, Eric Victorino, says the band is getting used to the idea of playing together again.

Reunited And It Feels So Good: Strata frontman, Eric Victorino, says the band is getting used to the idea of playing together again.

Eric Victorino is in high spirits when he answers the phone. Why shouldn’t he be. It’s Friday evening, the laughter and his initial distraction indicates he is amongst friends. Plus, he notes, “I’ve been drinking some wine.”

But Victorino has plenty more to be cheerful about. Not long ago, he surpassed the crowdfunding goal for his planned solo album as E. James. Plus, he has recently resumed rehearsals with Strata—the San Jose-bred alternative rock band that nearly attained mainstream success back in the mid-2000s, only to see its ascent cut short by a less-than-amicable breakup—and according to the singer, things are going swimmingly these days.

Strata is currently preparing for their first show in about a year. Their last performance was at The Independent in San Francisco. Back then, they played a set composed almost entirely of deep cuts—the tracks they wanted to play after their six-year hiatus. In retrospect, that might have been a bit ambitious, Victorino notes.

“We played obscure stuff that only the most hardcore fans would know about,” he recalls. “You felt the drag about halfway through the set. It was like a Foo Fighters set, except without all the hits. It was just way too long.”

That’s not the plan this time around. “I think the novelty for us has worn off a bit,” Victorino says. “We crafted the setlist for this show the same way we would if it was 2007 and we were on tour. We’re not going for nostalgia. We’re going for the hardest-hitting songs and the ones people want to hear.”

Strata are slated to play The Ritz this Friday, along with Citabria, Cemetery Sun and Louis Wain & The Cats, and Victorino says they aim to make their first appearance at the SoFA club a memorable one. “I’m super excited to be playing there and bring back those old memories.”

The “old memories” to which Victorino is referring were formed in Strata’s early days—back when The Cactus Club was still running—just across the street from where The Ritz is now.

“There’s so much history there,” he says, referring to the Cactus—which hosted some of the biggest alternative acts of the ’90s, before they were huge, including Green Day and Deftones.

Recalling those days, Victorino says that local bands used to have a place to ramp up—to play a super small stage at first, then getting the chance to open for a larger touring band, which would draw a larger crowd and give a young and aspiring band exposure to a wider audience. “That’s what’s missing [in San Jose] right now.”

When asked whether Strata might be coming out with a new album anytime soon, Victorino says that new music is likely inevitable—it’s only a matter of whether they’ll actually be able to get into a proper studio and press up a proper single, EP or full length.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been able to practice without writing stuff,” he says, explaining that the band usually comes up with new riffs at every practice. “It’s the way we start a jam session—we build on each other’s ideas and song ideas come out and we record all of them. The potential for a new Strata record is always there.”

He also feels that the band is more focused than they’ve been in quite some time—and are definitely the most focused since reuniting back in 2014. “Last time it was like, ‘Holy shit, we’re actually doing this.’ and this time it’s like, ‘Let’s do this the best we can.’”

Victorino isn’t the only one who is pumped about playing. According to the singer, a number of Strata super fans have already purchased VIP tickets for this week’s show—some of them are coming from as far away as Baltimore.

The limited edition tickets give fans the opportunity to hang out with the band during sound check, before the show. Last year, he says, they did the same thing, and a fan of theirs came out from Texas. “To me, that’s the kind of stuff that helps me feel like what we’re doing is important. When somebody loves us that much that they’re going to buy a ticket and come across the country and hang out.”

Strata, Citabria and Cemetery Sun play The Ritz on Sept. 25. Show starts at 8pm.

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